Burmese community confronts China
on support of Myanmar military regime
Nyunt Than, president of the Burmese American Democratic Alliance
leads a protest Friday outside the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco.
Photo(s) by John
By Ari Burack
October 6, 2007
The Bay Area's Burmese community flexed its political muscle
Friday with a peaceful protest aimed squarely at the Chinese government's
support of the current military regime in Myanmar.
Hundreds of demonstrators lined an entire block outside San Francisco's
Chinese Consulate in support of Myanmar's pro-democracy movement,
calling on the Chinese government to compel the regime to end
its crackdown on monks and protestors.
Chanting and bearing signs such as "Free Burma" and
"Democracy for Burma," most came dressed in red colors
matching the robes of Buddhist monks who led the recent protest
in Myanmar, which began in August. Protestors were joined by groups
of monks in silent meditation and prayer.
"Now is the time to help the people of Burma," said
Nyunt Than, president of the Burmese American Democratic Alliance,
which organized the protest. "We need to act. We need an
internationally concerted effort to pressure this regime,"
Though news from the country has been trickling out slowly,
current estimates put the number of monks and protestors detained
in recent weeks in the thousands, Than said. Anywhere from 200
to 6,000 may have been killed, he said.
"We want China to use its influence...to pressure this regime
to stop the killing," Than said.
According to Than, neighboring China offers considerable military
and economic support to the Myanmar government because of the
country's extensive gas and oil reserves.
"So they want to please this regime," Than explained.
"For them to be stronger, do we have to be suffering?"
Organizers have also called for a boycott of the 2008 Olympics
Than said the Bay Area's Burmese population, which numbers about
20,000 to 30,000, was given support by members of the local Tibetan,
Vietnamese and Thai communities, as well Christian and Muslim
Iew Sit Neing, Burmese activist and student at City Colllege San
According to BADA board member Nick Harmony, Myanmar's pro-democracy
movement has been simmering for decades, and widespread demonstrations
in 1988 were met with a massacre of protestors by government troops,
A historic democratic election in 1990 was annulled by the government,
which lost the election, Harmony said, and 1991 Nobel Peace Prize
winner Aung San Suu Kyi has been under house arrest on and off
for about 18 years, Harmony said. Suu Kyi, considered by pro-democracy
activists to be the country's true leader, has been kept in solitary
confinement for the last four years, Harmony said.
Aung San Suu Kyi
Hundreds of thousands of protestors have turned out countrywide
over the last several weeks, spurred by the government's dramatic
hike in gas prices in August, Harmony said.
Afterwards, demonstrators marched from the Consulate to Civic
Center's UN Plaza where they held more rallies and a prayer ceremony
Workers at the Great American Music Hall on O'Farrell St.
watch as demonstrators march by.
A tenderloin woman makes a peace sign as marchers pass by.
Monks from various Buddhist faiths led a prayer ceremony at UN
John Han contributed to this report.
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